Wollondilly Shire is made up of 17 towns and villages, each with it's own distinct and unique features.
The administrative centre of the Wollondilly Shire, Picton is located only 90 minutes south of Sydney and 40 minutes west of Wollongong. The town was originally called Stonequarry but was later renamed after the British general, Sir Thomas Picton (1758-1815) in 1845. Whilst there are certainly a number of historic buildings, the town also boasts a modern shopping centre and vibrant collection of main businesses including a variety of gift shops, cafés, restaurants, and pubs.
The Botanic Garden is a popular visitation point and the Historic Picton Walking Tour offers a chance to view a number of heritage buildings, bridges, and tunnels. There is also a significant rail heritage, with a unique railway viaduct still in use on the main southern line as well as the Redbank Range Tunnel, fondly known by locals as the Mushroom Tunnel.
Tahmoor has had a variety of names over the years, including Myrtle Creek, Bargo West, Cordeaux, and Bronzewing Park, before settling on Tahmoor, a local aboriginal word meaning ‘Bronzewinged Pigeon”. Tahmoor is enjoying a flush of commercial growth and is considered the commercial centre of the Shire. However despite the modernity of the town, there still remain intriguing pockets of history and nature, including the oldest house in the Shire, Tahmoor House, now privately owned. Tahmoor has the largest population in the Shire and has recently enjoyed a main street beautification enjoyed by both locals and visitors to the area.
Thirlmere was named after a lake in Cumberland, England, but today it is known for the Trainworks, the largest rail heritage collection in Australia and Thirlmere Lakes National Park, a popular destination for bushwalkers and nature enthusiasts. Thirlmere Lakes offer swimming and canoeing as well as a very scenic location and are among the last undisturbed freshwater lakes in the Sydney region. A cycleway links Thirlmere with Tahmoor.
Named after the village of Appin in Scotland, Appin was the fifth village in the colony. The town dates back to 1811 and as such, offers visitors a chance to view several early buildings including Appin public school which was the first school built under Henry Parkes’ Public Schools Act. The rugged beauty of Wollondilly is a prominent feature of the drive between Appin and Douglas Park, through Broughtons Pass and crossing the Cataract River.
Razorback is named after sightings of wild pigs called ‘Razorback’ because of their serrated bristles. Razorback is the site for the historic Anthony Horden’s Tree and was also made famous with the ‘Truckie Blockade’ in the ‘70s, commemorated with a monument. On top of Razorback is the panoramic lookout over Picton, Cawdor Valley, Camden and Sydney on a clear day.
Bargo, Yanderra, and Pheasants Nest
In a letter to Sir Joseph Banks in 1807, botanist George Caley said his Aboriginal guide, Mowattin, had called the forest Bargo, the word meaning ‘place of cliffs’ or ‘thick shrub’. It was in the Bargo and Yanderra district that white settlers first recorded sightings of the koala, lyrebird and wombat. Ex-convict John Wilson, noted the three animals in his diary describing the lyrebird as a pheasant, hence the name Pheasants Nest, and recorded the koala as being known to the Aboriginal people as ‘Cullawine’. Wirrimbirra, an aboriginal word meaning sanctuary, is preserved as a remnant of the original Bargo Bush, once the haunt of bushrangers. The property includes excellent bushwalking tracks, commercial plant nursery, wildlife enclosure, and cabin accommodation. Incorporating the Dingo Sanctuary, Wirrimbirra is located in a natural setting for the Australian native dog and is a great learning experience.
Burragorang Valley and Yerranderie
The Burragorang Valley makes up a large portion of the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains National Park. Access to the valley is restricted due to the provision of water supply for Sydney.
Yerranderie Ghost Town is nestled in the wilderness in the Lower Blue Mountains. A treat for nature lovers and bushwalkers, visitors can stay in a comfortable lodge, a miner’s cottage or camp among the kangaroos. Enjoy the peace and serenity of the valley and explore the heritage of days gone by. Scenic flights can be undertaken, providing spectacular views of nearby Lake Burragorang. You can access the town via Oberon in a normal car or 4WD through the national park via either Wombeyan Caves or Jenolan Caves.
When explorer George Evans discovered this river, his account convinced Governor Macquarie to examine it for himself. In 1810, he and a party were rowed up the Nepean River from near modern Penrith. Macquarie wrote “…one of the natives born near this part of the country, and who made on of our party on this day’s excursion, tells us the real and proper native name for this newly discovered river that we are now exploring is the Warragombie, by which name I have directed it to be called in the future”. That Gundangararra name for the river is understood to have meant ‘water tumbling over many boulders’. Warragamba Dam is one of Australia’s engineering masterpieces and one of the world’s largest domestic water supply dams. There are three viewing platforms at the dam which offer excellent views of the upstream dam wall and Lake Burragorang. Surrounding areas offer visitors glorious scenic drives in real farmland surrounds with an abundance of deer farms, nurseries, equestrian studs and veggie growers prospering in this agricultural belt on the outskirts of the city. A visit to the village of Warragamba will reveal some quaint shops, houses and narrow streets giving visitors insight into life during the construction of Warragamba Dam.
A unique settlement modelled on the typical English village, including a beautiful church, ‘The Store’ which offers everything from food supplies, and liquor, to antiques, collectables and picnic supplies. Take time out to visit ‘Menangle Beach’ on the mighty Nepean River, and enjoy the freshwater swimming, clean country air and spectacular touring routes of this historic part of the Shire.
The Oaks, Oakdale, Belimbla Park and Nattai
The Oaks was originally known as ‘The Private Village of Vanderville’ and was given the name ‘The Oaks’ in 1810 by government botanist George Caley after sighting domestic she-oaks and river oaks in the surrounding area. The Oaks offers a welcome rest point along the scenic drive though the Shire, with the cluster of shops providing the perfect place to stretch out amongst the blissful surrounds over a cup of your favourite coffee. The Oaks is also home to Wollondilly Heritage Centre and Museum, open on weekends and public holidays.
Oakdale is a strong stone fruit growing area and Nattai is the gateway to the Burragorang Valley lookout over the Blue Mountain wilderness. Belimbla Park was named in the 1940s when an area between The Oaks and Oakdale was selected for a plantation of a particular type of eucalyptus, native to the Belimbla Creek.
The town is named after Dr H.G. Douglass, an eminent man in his time, serving as a clerk of the Legislative council and later as an elected member. Douglas Park is a true country village boasting St Mary’s Towers Monastery, one of the oldest complexes of heritage buildings in the Shire. St Mary’s Towers offers group tour visitations by arrangement for a modest fee.
The word Couridjah comes from the aboriginal name meaning ‘Home of the White Ants’. Located on the old Loop Line railway, it’s hard to believe that this sleepy little hamlet once served as the major railhead for local produce from as far as Bargo. The little railway station is famous for its appearance in television, advertising and film.